Archive for January, 2012

In California’s Rancho Corral de Tierra (part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area), a National Park Service Ranger reportedly shot Gary Hesterberg in the back with a taser after he walked away during a confrontation over walking his two lapdogs off leash. He was then arrested on suspicion of failing to obey a lawful order, having dogs off-leash and knowingly providing false information. The park service spokesperson reportedly said it is all part of teaching citizens about the new leash law in the area . . . or teaching Hesterberg to heel.

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This week, Miguel Morales Robles, a Mexican state official from Veracruz, was detained at an airport with $1.9 million stuffed into a briefcase and a backpack. However, Tomas Ruiz, treasury secretary for Veracruz state, assured the public that it was all perfectly innocent and legal — the official was just taking cash to Mexico City to pay an advertising firm to promote festivals.

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The Economist just published an amazing chart of “Two Thousand Years In One Chart.” However, the most interesting claim is this: “[o]ver 23% of all the goods and services made since 1AD were produced from 2001 to 2010.” That is from the first product (the fig leaf outfits of Adam and Eve to last year’s Britney Spears CD).

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Kansas State Rep. Ed Trimmer is moving to correct a serious lapse in the state arrays of official insects, songs, and animals. He has a bill to proclaim the Cairn Terrier — the breed of Toto in “The Wizard of Oz” — the state dog.

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The South African government has long been accused of mixed efforts in combating AIDS despite the country having one of the highest HIV infection rates in the world. Now the government is accused of handing out more than a million free condoms at the African National Congress centenary celebrations that are defective and leak.

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Ilya Ablavsky, 33, has had his share of problems. As a student at Brandeis University, he was charged with making bomb threats after losing a primary race for mayor of Waltham. He also claims to suffer from bipolar and post-traumatic stress disorders as well as high anxiety. He can now add a suspended 18 month sentence to his woes after pleading guilty to stealing a court file in a murder case in an attempt to prevent the prosecution of an acquaintance. He had only had his license for a few months and will now likely lose it in a remarkably short legal career.

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It appears that Henry VIII is alive and well in Afghanistan . . . but not his wife. In another horrendous attack on a woman in that country, police are seeking Sher Mohammad who they say strangled his wife for giving birth to a girl rather than the boy that he wanted. Putting aside the man’s apparent ignorance of the fact that it was he who determined the gender of the child, it is another example of how women in some of these insular Muslim communities are treated as chattel. The man’s mother, Wali Hazrata, is accused of tying the feet of 22-year-old Stori or Estorai. She has been arrested while her son is believed to be with an illegal militia group.

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I have a new addition to our series, “Things That Tick Me Off,” encounters and experiences that go beyond the usual level of inconvenience or stupidity in everyday life. This weekend, we took the kids to the D.C. Chinese Lunar New Year parade in Chinatown with another family. It was not just the worst experience we have had in an outing with the kids, we felt fortunate to leave the parade without injury. It was nothing short of unbelievable.

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Ever since Benny Hill Americans have had a difficult time getting British humor. However, British tourists Leigh Van Bryan, 26, and pal Emily Bunting, 24, claim that the Department of Homeland Security not only lacks a sense of humor but does not recognize a joke from the quintessential American comedy show, Family Guy. Upon arriving at Los Angeles, they were interrogated for hours about tweets that they sent and eventually ejected from the country. Before their deportation, they say that they were held in a cell with narcotics traffickers for twelve hours.

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New York attorney Crawford Shaw is in the center of a odd mystery. Just two hours before the passing of a deadline for a jackpot ticket to the state lottery, Shaw contacted the Iowa Lottery to submit the winning ticket on behalf of an unnamed client. The ticket was sold 13 months previously at a Des Moines gas station with a payout of $7.5 million cash or $10.3 million spread over 25 years. However, things then got pretty weird. The Iowa lottery proclaims that “Anything Can Happen” and it appears it has.

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The respected Reporters Without Borders has issued its annual report and ranking of press freedom. You might have some initial difficulty locating the United States . . . it is 27 points lower on the ranking due to the mistreatment of journalists in this country. You will find us just after Comoros and Taiwan and in the company of Argentina and Romania. In the recent column on “10 Reasons The U.S. Is No Longer The Land Of The Free,” I was not able due to space to include press freedoms and others. This report, however, should be a wake up call for civil libertarians.

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Bursting Bubble . . . That Is All

For your  morning Zen, here is a video in slow motion of a ballon being popped by a pellet.

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Submitted by Gene Howington, Guest Blogger

The 5th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution reads:

No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.”

The language is clear.  There is no reasonable alternative construction or deconstruction of the language that renders any permutation of the right against self-incrimination to yield a contrary result.  You don’t have to offer testimony against yourself in a criminal proceeding in any court of law.  Ever. In what seems an ever increasing and endless assault on the civil rights of American citizens, even this right spelled out in plain language is under attack. This time the alleged assailant is U.S. District Court Judge Robert Blackburn, a George W. Bush appointee.  Judge Blackburn has ordered a criminal defendant to produce a unencrypted version of an encrypted hard drive.  While several lower courts have addressed this issue, the Supreme Court has yet to weigh in on it.  That may change.

But is the 5th Amendment really under attack here?  The 5th Amendment applies to testimony.  The issue at hand here is production of evidence. Different standards and protections can apply to compelling the production of evidence. The case in front of Judge Blackburn is U.S. v. Fricosu.

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Respectfully submitted by Lawrence Rafferty (rafflaw)–Guest Blogger

Here in Illinois it is currently illegal for citizens to audio tape record public officials while they are doing their public duty, even in public.  “Illinois’ eavesdropping ban was extended in 1994 to include open and obvious audio recording, even if it takes place on a public street where no expectation of privacy exists and in a volume audible to the “unassisted human ear.” ‘  Chicago Tribune   When I first heard of this law, I was at first shocked and then my shock turned to anger.  The police can make recordings of citizens out in public while they are in the midst of a traffic stop or even when one is exercising their First Amendment rights on the streets of Chicago.  But, private citizens are not allowed to record those same police officers when they abuse the public or take liberties with constitutional guarantees. (more…)

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Submitted by Elaine Magliaro, Guest Blogger

In his Washington Post article titled 10 Reasons The United States Is No Longer The Land Of The Free (January 15, 2012), Jonathan Turley addressed the issue of indefinite detention of American citizens. He wrote:

Under the law signed last month, terrorism suspects are to be held by the military; the president also has the authority to indefinitely detain citizens accused of terrorism. While Sen. Carl Levin insisted the bill followed existing law “whatever the law is,” the Senate specifically rejected an amendment that would exempt citizens and the Administration has opposed efforts to challenge such authority in federal court. The Administration continues to claim the right to strip citizens of legal protections based on its sole discretion.

The next day on this blog, Professor Turley said that he had been heartened by the response to his column. He added, “a few commenters continue to suggest that the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) does not allow for the indefinite detention of citizens.”

Even people who believe that NDAA does not allow for the indefinite detention of citizens should be concerned about a proposed amendment to the Immigration and Nationality Act that would give our government “the authority to strip a person of their American citizenship if that person is accused or suspected of supporting ‘hostilities’ against the U.S.  The amendment, known as the Enemy Expatriation Act (EEA), was introduced, in October, by Rep. Charles Dent, R-Pa., and Sens. Joseph Lieberman, I-Conn., and Scott Brown, R-Mass.

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Zombies Voting In South Carolina?

-Submitted by David Drumm (Nal), Guest Blogger

South Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles director Kevin Shwedo testified before a House hearing that more than 950 dead people had voted. Shwedo and his staff used records from the State Election Commission, the state Department of Vital Statistics, and the Social Security Administration to calculate the number of zombie voters. Shwedo forwarded his list of names to state law enforcement.

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Tell Her No

-Submitted by David Drumm (Nal), Guest Blogger


Grab the headphones/earbuds, we present The Zombies in glorious STEREO!

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Submitted by Mark Esposito, Guest Blogger

With apologies to Archbishop of Canterbury John Morton, I’m offering this version of his famous “fork”:

You’re a young idealist standing for the highest office in the land. Against many odds you’ve offered a candidacy of hope and change to an electorate tired of both war and the prior Administration that got them into those wars. There are rumors of widespread atrocities committed by that Administration in response to a horrific terrorist attack on American soil where thousands of your countrymen died. In your capacity as an US Senator, you’ve been briefed on several of these and you see a pattern developing. You’re a Constitutionalist;  a lawyer; and a principled man, but you recognize the nation faces a real threat of nuclear holocaust at the hands of committed, well-funded terrorists supported and protected by renegade states and even some of our allies. These terrorists have a fanatical zeal and value martyrdom above self-preservation. You believe that if they acquire weapons of mass destruction the question will not be if millions of people will die, but which millions of people will die.

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Submitted by Elaine Magliaro, Guest Blogger

In the past year at the Turley Blawg, we’ve cast a spotlight on the GOP’s “war on women”—as well as on the low esteem in which some members of the Republican Party seem to hold women. (Note: At the end of this article, you’ll find links to a number of the previous Turley Blawg posts on the subject.)

In order to keep you updated on this gender war that appears to have no end in sight, I have a story out of New Hampshire that should make women who live there shudder. Members of the Republican Party have proposed legislation that would change the state’s domestic violence laws—which are said to be some of the toughest in this country.

According to the Concord Monitor, “New Hampshire has been a leader in the effort to make domestic violence a cultural taboo.” The Monitor reported that “House Bill 1581 would turn back the clock forty years to an age when a police officer could not make an arrest in a domestic violence case without first getting a warrant unless he or she actually witnessed the crime.” As the NH law now stands, the police can arrest an abuser based on probable cause.

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Submitted by: Mike Spindell, guest blogger

  I’d actually halfway finished a blog on a different subject today, when I was spun in a different  direction. Thursday night I had done something I never do and watched the Republican Debate in Florida. It was frighteningly enlightening to say the least, but what stood out for me was Newt commenting that our President was a disciple of Saul Alinsky. I thought then “How many people today know who Saul Alinsky was and what he represented?” On last nights Bill Maher’s show, Bill asked the question “Who was Saul Alinsky?” as part of his New Rules segment. This morning in HuffPost, Frank Mankiewicz addressed a variant of the same question: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/frank-mankiewicz/america-meet-saul-alinsky_b_1238953.html

The idea of following heroes to me has always seemed silly, yet there are people whose lives and work I deeply admire and to some sense try to emulate. My first was Clarence Darrow and it is therefore no coincidence that I am a denizen of this blog. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clarence_Darrow .  Clarence Darrow’s picture is used above because it is in the public realm, while mysteriously Saul Alinsky’s isn’t. Obviously, Saul Alinsky is another person whose life I admire. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saul_Alinsky  Alinsky was a radical in his methods, but one who eschewed the doctrinaire self assurance of an ideologue. When asked if he ever considered joining the Communist Party he famously replied”

“Not at any time. I’ve never joined any organization—not even the ones I’ve organized myself. I prize my own independence too much. And philosophically, I could never accept any rigid dogma or ideology, whether it’s Christianity or Marxism. One of the most important things in life is what Judge Learned Hand described as ‘that ever-gnawing inner doubt as to whether you’re right.’ If you don’t have that, if you think you’ve got an inside track to absolute truth, you become doctrinaire, humorless and intellectually constipated. The greatest crimes in history have been perpetrated by such religious and political and racial fanatics, from the persecutions of the Inquisition on down to Communist purges and Nazi genocide.”

His was a belief that has resonated with me since those radical days in the 60’s, with the Movement, when I was surrounded by and courted by various ideologies, mostly Marxist whose rigidity of thought and party line belief, actually disgusted me. Yet there was Alinsky, the man who literally wrote the book on community organizing, who felt similarly towards ideological rigidity. He was truly an America Patriot, whose guiding idea was to assist downtrodden people to gain power over their lives and give them a chance to decide their fates. Alinsky was a man who achieved great success, if you define success as achieving ones goals. The disdain and demonization again being heaped upon him today comes from the very real threat his methodology has towards the 1% elite and curiously that aim of his was the reinstatement of “The American Dream” of freedom, equality and social justice. (more…)

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Bullies With Badges

-Submitted by David Drumm (Nal), Guest Blogger

That was the description of four East Haven, Connecticut, police officers who were arrested after a federal grand jury returned an indictment containing charges of conspiring to violate, and violating, the civil rights of members of the East Haven community. All four have pleaded not guilty in Federal District Court and three have been released on bail, ranging from $100,000 to $300,000; the fourth is awaiting completion of his paperwork.

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Find The Kitteh Contest

-Submitted by David Drumm (Nal), Guest Blogger

Click to enlarge. Solution below the fold.

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Submitted by Mark Esposito, Guest Blogger

Seventh Circuit Judge Richard Posner is one of America’s most lauded judges and legal thinkers. An economics degree from Yale, president of the Harvard Law Review, and clerk to Justice William Brennan, Posner has the brains and the pedigree to move American jurisprudence. And move it he has. A conservative in reaction to his experience on the Supreme Court he’s drawn the ire of this blog for insensitvity to Constitutional rights of citizens. In addition, he’s one of the main proponents of the “law and economics” movement which advocates the analysis of law using economic principles. As you guessed, he’s no enemy of big corporations and business in general. 

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Ronnie

-Submitted by David Drumm (Nal), Guest Blogger


We present for your listening enjoyment, The Four Seasons in glorious STEREO!

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We have often discussed the ever-widening scope of copyright and trademark laws. This trend has prompted lawsuit over using generic images or terms, obvious parodies, or names. Now, an English court has ruled in favor of UK souvenir maker Temple Island Collection Ltd against New English Teas for using a picture of a London bus. Not a picture taken by Temple Island, mind you: Taking its own picture of a London bus that the court deemed as too close to a picture of a London bus taken by Temple Island. The Defendant used photoshop software to alter the image.

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After my recent column on “Ten Reasons The U.S. Is No Longer The Land Of The Free,” I ran a response to claims made by Senator Carl Levin (D., Mich.) who was the main sponsor of the legislation including the indefinite detention provisions. Levin has now run a letter to the editor in response to my column that I believe is highly misleading and leaves readers with a false impression of both the law and my column.

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Rick Bartlett, pastor of the Bastrop Christian Church in Texas, has been arrested for allegedly throwing a neighbor’s cat, Moody, off a bridge after caging and abandoning the cat for days in his truck.

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In East St. Louis, Illinois, Brett Nash, 45, is accused of conspiracy to murder and then frame someone else for the crime. Not unheard of to be sure in the annals of crime, but the murder was going to be pinned on a cat.

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The Senate Education Committee of the Indiana Senate has overwhelmingly voted to approve a bill allowing for the teaching of creationism in the state’s public schools. The Sponsor is Senator Dennis Kruse.

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Hawkins County (Tenn.) Sessions Court Judge James “Jay” Taylor appears to attract investigations the way motor homes attract tornados. He has been sued in various civil lawsuits and has now been hit with five criminal charges, including stealing money that he raised for a “Citizens Heritage Display” including the Ten Commandments to be placed in the lobby of the Hawkins County Justice Center. He is continuing his push for reelection as well as his performances as part of “The Redeemed Southern Gospel Singing Quartet.”

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We have previously discussed the rising anti-intellectualism in the GOP race from the rejection of basic science principles to the demonification of academics and higher education. Rick Santorum this week ramped up on the attacks on colleges and universities with a speech that seemed to call for voters to avoid supporting — or even attempting — college. Santorum appears to be proudly embracing the pledge of Will Rogers that “America is becoming so educated that ignorance will be a novelty. I will belong to the select few.”

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While Nancy Pelosi continues to warn Republicans not to nominate Newt Gingrich (which is being used by the Romney camp this week), the Republican establishment is doing a full court press against Gingrich. That has led to some curious moments like Ann Coulter denouncing Gingrich for “hotheaded arrogance”. However, the strangest came from Elliott Abrams who accused Gingrich of the greatest sin of a Republican. No it is not endorsing torture or promising to renew the Iraqi War or even wiping out the separation of church and state. It is the unspeakable act of criticizing Ronald Reagan. Reagan famously handed down the 11th Commandment “Thou shalt not speak ill of any fellow Republican.” However, that is merely a venal not the mortal sin of violating the 12th Commandment, “Thou shalt not speak ill of Reagan.”

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We have previously discussed how history is being forgotten in the United States, England, and other countries. We can now add Germany to the list. While one would hope that there are certain historical facts that are indelible, one in five young Germans has no idea that Auschwitz was a Nazi death camp.

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Former Bronx prosecutor Bernadette Greenwald, 37, has been criminally charged after she pulled a gun on a teen and fired a shot in anger over teenagers ringing her door bell in the “ding-dong ditch” game. Police say that Greenwald fired her pink 9mm handgun to show the teen she had (in her words) “balls.” Greenwald practices under her maiden name, Bernadette Nicchia.

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This week’s most frivolous lawsuit was filed by Dr. Randeep Dhillon of Bakersfield on behalf of himself and Bol Punjabi All Regions Community Organization in California. Dhillon is suing Jay Leno for showing a picture of the Sikh holy shrine Golden Temple in Amritsar, India as the image of Mitt Romney’s summer home. The obvious parody is entirely protected but Dhillon has claimed that it constitutes libel.

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I previously criticized Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi for suggesting that she has dirt on Newt Gingrich but would disclose it later. She has returned to that ignoble theme in an interview with CNN, saying that Gingrich will not be elected because “There is something I know.” I have been a vocal critic of Gingrich on this blog, but once again I view this low-grade form of politicking to be grossly unfair to Gingrich and a further degrading of our political system. If you want to attack Gingrich, then do it. Do not constantly suggest that you have severed heads in a duffel bag or some other evidence against the man.

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Country singer Garth Brooks has prevailed in his lawsuit to force the IntegrisCanadian Valley Regional Hospital in Yukon, Oklahoma to return half a million dollars from a prior gift. The case will likely be examined closely by universities and hospitals as a cautionary tale on the handling of donor money. What is clear is that, after taking one of its largest donors to court, the IntegrisCanadian Valley Regional Hospital can expect a rather chilly response from future donors. Here is the get part: the jury decided that he was a Victim of the Game and made the damages a cool $1 million dollars with punitive damages. Now that was a smart legal strategy for the hospital.

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Oklahoma GOP State Senator Ralph Shortey is one politician who is not afraid to take on special interest groups. This month he has introduced a bill that will enrage that powerful lobby of commercial product cannibals who seek to use human fetuses to spice up food. Shortey’s bill would prohibit the manufacturing and sale of food “which contains aborted human fetuses.” First, however, you will have to find one.

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This video on YouTube raises serious questions over the necessity of shooting a man outside of a Carl’s Jr. in Monterey Park, California. The man was smashing windows with a pipe and failed to yield to commands from officers. When he turned toward one officer and raised the pipe, he was repeatedly shot by the other officer in the video.

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In Tremonton, Utah, a family is facing a bizarre tragedy after Robby Ostberg, 14, was killed after being shot in the head by a small replica cannon. Notably, the police have said that they first believed that the cannon was purely decorative but then found that it was designed to fire a .50-caliber round. That would create a possible basis for a tort lawsuit for negligence and possibly product liability.

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Norway Mayor Jim Preacher was not apparently happy about being pulled over by a South Carolina state trooper for speeding. After being given a ticket, Preacher proceeded to put on his own blue lights and pulled over the trooper in his capacity as Norway’s chief constable.

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In Texas, investigators are demanding answers from Dallas meat-packing company Columbia Packing Company after photos appeared to show the company dumping pig blood into the Trinity River. The case raises some interesting legal questions.

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We have been following the rapid diminishing of free speech in the West in recent years. It is particularly disconcerting to see this trend in our close allies of England and France (For a prior column, click here). Now, the French Senate has added a new speech crime — denying the fact of the Armenian genocide by Turkey. While I commend the motivation, the legislation is blind to the implications to free speech by criminalizing certain subjects for debate. It seeks to force critics to be silent under threat of criminal prosecution — an approach that produces only the appearance of agreement while denying citizens the basic right to be heard on such controversies.

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As a history buff who loves visiting France, I have previously objected to the commercialization of historical sites of a former French minister of Versailles. However, nothing quite prepared me for the new idea of former French minister Yves Jégo, who is planning the creation of “Napoleonland.” He is raising £180 million for the amusement park on the site of Napoleon’s final victory at the Battle of Montereau in 1814 just south of Paris.
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Former Florida prosecutor Aaron Slavin, 34, has received a three-year prison sentence for accepting more than 200 oxycodone pills as payment for legal services in 2010. His wife Eryn Slavin, 34, was also convicted of drug possession, but under the deal with her husband she will avoid jail time. His mug shot sheet shows an arrest in 2010.

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I previously wrote about the pending case of United States v. Jones and the effort of the Administration to establish precedent allowing the government to follow citizens with Global Positioning Devices (GPS) without any showing of probable cause. I am happy to report that the Court has ruled unanimously against the government and found the practice to be unconstitutional under the fourth amendment. It is a stinging defeat for the Obama Administration but a roaring victory for privacy and civil liberties at a time when good news is rare.

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We have followed the rising prosecution of people for blasphemy around the world, including the West. Now, Muslim groups in India are calling for the prosecution of organizers for reading from Salman Rushdie’s banned book “Satanic Verses” at the Jaipur Literature Festival. Abdul Latif, state secretary of All India Milli council refers to the mere reading from the book as “condemnable” and said that the groups are collecting evidence for prosecution.

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LawDragon Selects Top 500 Lawyers

LawDragon has released the results of its increasingly popular survey of the top lawyers in America. I was fortunate to again make the list this year.
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Andrew Adler, the owner and publisher of the Atlanta Jewish Times, has apologized after running a column that lists three options for Israel to deal with its current threats that included killing Barack Obama. The column went out of its way to make sure that readers “read ‘three’ correctly” — “U.S. based Mossad agents” should kill the president. The column is just one more example of how religious writers and politicians use faith as a vehicle for hate and violent speech. Given our discussion of Santorum’s honorary campaign chairman (who denounced gays as making God want to vomit), one has to wonder about the intestinal fortitude of the Almighty during periods of sectarian extremism.

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Remember our plans to introduce a free and democratic nation in Iraq? We have been following the rampant corruption and increasing use of Sharia law in the country. Now, the Human Rights Watch has issued a report that our billions of dollars and many lives were spent to achieve . . . “a budding police state” where torture and abuse is widespread. In the meantime, we have spent ten years cutting back on essential services and programs in the United States to fund this shining example of American intervention.

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